Clause 15 - Duties to protect content of democratic importance

Part of Online Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 7th June 2022.

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Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 4:30 pm, 7th June 2022

I want to make a few comments on the amendment. As a younger female parliamentarian, I find that I am often asked to speak to young people about becoming an MP or getting involved in politics. I find it difficult to say to young women, “Yes, you should do this,” and most of the reason for that is what people are faced with online. It is because a female MP cannot have a Twitter account without facing abuse. I am sure male MPs do as well, but it tends to be worse for women.

We cannot engage democratically and with constituents on social media platforms without receiving abuse and sometimes threats as well. It is not just an abusive place to be—that does not necessarily meet the threshold for illegality—but it is pretty foul and toxic. There have been times when I have deleted Twitter from my phone because I just need to get away from the vile abuse that is being directed towards me. I want, in good conscience, to be able to make an argument to people that this is a brilliant job, and it is brilliant to represent constituents and to make a difference on their behalf at whatever level of elected politics, but right now I do not feel that I am able to do that.

When my footballing colleague, the hon. Member for Batley and Spen, mentions “UK elections” in the amendment, I assume she means that in the widest possible way—elections at all levels.